A summary by guest author
On July 15 the Columbus Council on World Affairs http://columbusworldaffairs.org hosted a live stream program on the State of the World’s LGBT Community. The Guest Speaker was Ty Cobb Director of Global Engagement Human Rights Campaign – http://www.hrc.org/
Margret House has provided to WACCT an engaging summary of the program.
Approximately 80 countries have laws against homosexuality. Putin has recently tried to protect “Russian Traditional Values” by prohibiting the propaganda of “untraditional sexual relations” to minors. Uganda has passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) under which homosexuals can be sentenced to life in prison for their sexual orientation. The AHA that was passed by the Ugandan Parliament is a slightly milder version of a law that called for punishing acts of homosexuality with the death penalty.
Ty Cobb, the Director of Global Engagement for the Human Rights Campaign, spoke of all of these horrifying truths during his State of the World’s LGBT Community address for the Columbus Council on World Affairs. Though Mr. Cobb ultimately called for hope, action, and the celebration of the advancements that have been made, I cannot help but feel dismayed about the seemingly vast, global discrimination against the LGBT community. Frankly, dismayed doesn’t even begin to describe the severity of this situation. It is absolutely terrifying.
Anti-gay sentiment has become a political pawn, used by figures such as Putin to increase their own popularity within the country. Mr. Cobb noted that Putin has been able to drum up support by signing into law bills that prevent homosexuals from adopting Russian children and prohibit international adoptions to countries where same-sex marriage is legal, even if the adopting parents are in a heterosexual relationship. By tapping into the fears of the general population, Putin has been able to make his position feel more secure, at the expense of thousands of LGBT people who are now facing increased violence, harassment, and brutality.
Perhaps most disturbing is the role of American extremists in the passage of these discriminatory laws by other countries. Mr. Cobb discussed extensively the role anti-gay activists in America have taken to promoting legislation abroad as they lose ground in the United States. For example, American extremists actively lobbied for the passage of the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda (formally known as the Anti-Homosexuality Act). In Jamaica, a court is close to deciding on a case regarding anti-homosexuality laws. Two Americans, one a former ambassador, are serving as witnesses on this case in support of the discriminatory statute. The involvement of American citizens in promoting the passage of discriminatory bills is deplorable. Furthermore, Mr. Cobb described that the adoption of anti-homosexual legislation in places like Russia and Uganda has created a ripple effect in the region, with neighboring countries now considering the passage of similar laws.
As easy as it is to be discouraged looking at the current situation, Mr. Cobb called for hope. He reminded listeners that there have been unprecedented advancements in the equality movement for transgender persons. He noted that the World Bank is currently reviewing its safeguards, terms put in place during development projects to try to prevent the harm of any community, to possibly include safeguards against women and LGBT people. These measures are particularly important in projects involving health care as they can mandate equal access to care for all people.
To end his speech, Mr. Cobb spoke of the steps that we can take to promote equality for members of the LGBT community in all countries. He called on LGBT persons and allies to continue to share their stories with the world in order to prevent anti-gay activists from controlling the rhetoric surrounding LGBT rights. Mr. Cobb also recognized that some people may face dangerous situations if they decide to share their stories. He suggested that social media can be an effective tool for continuing to discuss LGBT rights without fear of government repercussions. However, many countries that have criminalized homosexual activity also monitor internet activity. Therefore, Mr. Cobb insists that it is imperative for Americans to use their freedom of speech to promote the cause globally. Americans also need to realize that our politicians are responsible for foreign policy which can play a huge role in the governments of other nations. We need to elect leaders who support equality for all people, all over the world. Since much of the anti-gay extremism comes from faith-based organizations in the states, open and affirming faith-based organizations need to continue to make their love bigger and louder than the hatred of other organizations. People who belong to faith-based organizations that have missionary projects should make sure that their organizations promote love and acceptance abroad as well.
The Human Rights Council used to be based in the United States alone. In the past year, it has launched the HRC Global campaign to address equality for people of all sexual orientations on a global level. Their work is a reminder of the increasingly interconnected nature of our world. We cannot promote equality in our country and ignore conditions in other countries.